AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Within a stone’s throw

22 October 2012
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Within a stone’s throw

By a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams' Al-Khalil project

Three other CPTers and I were asked to accompany some farmers harvesting their olives on a mid-October day. Having arrived early, I and another Canadian CPTer walked uphill through a grove. Olive trees are beautifully ugly. They are hundreds of years old and have been weathered and warped, giving them a haunting, majestic look, like something from Middle Earth. As we got higher up the hill I started noticing razor wire.

The olive grove was within a stone's throw of an illegal Israeli settlement, built on what is supposed to be Palestinian land. Tel Rumeida, built over an archeological site, is illegal not just in international law (all Israeli settlements are illegal by that standard). The Israeli government continually ordered its citizens to stop building there, but when they refused, there were no repercussions. On the contrary, the Israeli military now provides soldiers to protect the settlement.

The CPTers and members of other peace organizations who came split up to be with different farmers, in case any settlers decided to come down and cause trouble. We had been informed that settlers had come down almost every day since the harvest started. And harvest began prematurely after some settlers came and stole the olives off a Palestinian's tree. The farmers in the area decided it was better harvest before the olives were ripe rather than have them all stolen.


So another CPTer and I sat under a tree watching... waiting... which got boring after about a minute, so we offered to help. The farmer (whose name I never got) spoke little English, and we spoke basically no Arabic. I knew enough to ask “Where?” and he could point me to the right place. The work was self-explanatory. It was all done by hand. I joined him up the tree (many knots and sturdy branches make olive trees fun to climb) and started dropping the olives onto a carpet spread on the ground. The other CPTer then picked them up, and sorted them. In a few weeks I'll probably be buying them as olive oil from the market in town.

When the tree was almost completely picked, the farmer invited us to tea. It was nice sitting in the shade of the olive tree and sipping sweet, hot tea served by his son, who had been helping us. The farmer even told us a story. The only words I could understand were 'settlers' and 'rock.' Then he made a throwing motion, and rolled up his sleeve to show a large black and purple bruise on his arm, the impact of a large rock. No further translation was needed.

Surprisingly, no settlers came that day. I was relieved and happy for the farmers and their families, that they could do at least one day's work in peace (and with some free labor). Settlers will come again, eventually, and I hope someone, even if it's not us, will be there to help protect the farmers.